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Full text of "My Country And My People"

3OO           MY    COUNTRY    AND    MY    PEOPLE

of the bamboo pattern. We dare to use round and oblong and
vase-shaped doors to break the monotony of the straight walls.
Our windows are of as many shapes as the small cakes of
Western pastry, imitating a banana leaf, or a peach, or a
double-curved melon or a fan. Li Liweng, poet, dramatist
and epicure, was responsible for introducing the branch-inlaid
windows and partitions. The outline of the window is usually
straight. Along this outline, however, he introduced a branch-
shaped carving, to give the effect of a living branch stretched
across the window. The device is applied to partitions, bed-
posts and other types of lattice-work. And lastly, the use of
rockery is probably the clearest example of our efforts to
introduce into human architecture the natural irregtdar lines
of nature.

In other words, we see everywhere in Chinese architecture
an effort to seek relief from straight lines through some form
of irregularity suggestive of animal and plant forms. This
leads to a consideration of the use of symbolism. The bat, for
instance, is very much used as a decorative motive, because its
curved wings are capable of so many variations in design, but
also because it is a homonym for "good luck," The symbol is
the language of the primitive and the child-mind. It is some-
thing that every Chinese woman and child can understand.

But symbolism has, further, the virtue of containing within
a few conventional lines the thought of the ages and the
dreams of the race. It kindles our imagination and leads us
into a realm of wordless thought, like the Christian cross or
the Soviet hammer and sickle. For such racial thoughts are
so big and so enormous that we cannot convey them in words.
A Chinese pillar goes up in perfect simplicity and then when
it reaches the top and loses itself in a riot of brackets and cornices
and bars, we like to see there, as we look up, a pair of mandarin
ducks or a grasshopper or an ink-slab and a brush. As we look
up at the mandarin ducks which always go in pairs in wedded
bliss, our thoughts are turned to woman's love, and as we look
at the ink-slab and the brush, we think of the quiet scholar in
Ms study. There, painted in green and blue and gold are the
grasshoppers and the crickets and the mandarin ducks, and it
is as much happiness as we dare to dream of in this earthly life.